How Bad are Bananas? (July 2011)
We all want to live in a way that is kind to the world but are you sometimes confused about the best way to do that? I bought the book How Bad are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee for my husband recently and we have been fascinated by the book’s entertaining prose and surprising conclusions.
The next few months will cover just a few of the book’s revelations.
Firstly, how bad are bananas? I must say, although we consume a lot of them in our household, I have always done so with a slightly guilty conscience despite their Fairtrade label. They are hardly local produce! Mike Berners-Lee, however, thinks that, at only 80 g *CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent – a measure of how climate damaging something is) per banana, they are brilliant! The reasons are several. They are grown in natural sunlight, are transported by ship (which is about 1 per cent as bad as by plane) and they are grown pre-packaged! And of course they are also highly nutritious, with any over-ripe fruit in our household ending its days in a cake and never in the compost. (Web-Editor’s Addition: And they don’t require cooking)
Whereas a banana’s footprint is pretty-much the same year round, this is not so for seasonal fruit. An apple varies from 10 g CO2e for one grown locally in autumn/winter to 150 g CO2e shipped and stored. More, but still a low-carbon food. A punnet of strawberries, however, produces 150 g CO2e grown in season, but rises to more than 10 times that if bought out-of-season, whether flown in or grown locally in a hothouse. The answer? Make the most of seasonal berries now, and when the season is over enjoy apples, pears and bananas until next summer.
How Bad are Bananas? gives tomatoes a grilling. Ordinary cheap and cheerful tomatoes bought now are really low-carbon (400g CO2e per kg), but out-of-season, organic tomatoes hothoused in the UK can be as bad as 50 kg CO2e per kg. Again, the answer is to relish our local, seasonal tomatoes now! Our family have got into the habit of simply not buying fresh tomatoes out of summertime, preferring chutneys and coleslaw.
God has given us a bounteous Earth to enjoy while serving Him. Each of us can enjoy all the food and drink and their amazing support systems that we need. But when we over-consume, as in indulging in climate damaging imported food, we harm, and can even destroy the Earth upon which we depend. We no longer serve and praise God in and with His creatures.
And for those spotty bananas:
Low-Fat Chocolate Banana Cake
Whisk 1 egg with 75ml oil and 2 bananas
Add 50g oats, 40g melted chocolate, 150g flour, 1 tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp baking soda, ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1 tsp vanilla, 125g sugar and a bit of milk until it’s cake-mix consistency. Put into greased cake tin and decorate with a sliced third banana. Bake at 180 º C for 40 minutes.
*CO2e is short for carbon dioxide equivalent which is the overall contribution to global warming of carbon dioxide plus all the other global warming gases emitted such as nitrous oxide and methane.
Data and inspiration from How Bad are Bananas? – The Carbon Footprint of Everythingby Mike Berners-Lee